Monday, August 7

Capital in the Nineteenth Century: Edgar Degas’s Portraits at the Stock Exchange in 1879

Edgar Degas, Portraits at the Stock Exchange, 1879
"In the spring of 1879, the catalogue of the fourth Impressionist exhibit listed Portraits at the Stock Exchange among the twenty-five works grouped under the name Edgar Degas (fig. 1). When, if ever, the painting actually appeared in public that year remains, however, an open question. Gustave Caillebotte, for instance, reported that only eight of Degas’s works had been hung on April 10 when the galleries opened on the avenue de l’Opéra. Over the next month of the show almost none of the numerous critics reviewing the exhibition came to acknowledge the existence of the picture. The one exception was Louis Leroy who, in typical comic mode, noted in passing a 'man’s hat, under which, after the most conscientious researches, I found it impossible to find a head.' Although Degas’s picture was also listed again in the catalogue for the next Impressionist exhibition, Leroy’s cryptic aside constitutes the entirety of its critical reception in the circumstances of its historical beholding. ..."